Peter Jennings: The ABCs of Bias

Peter Jennings has been widely accused of anti-Israel bias for many years. Below, we present a chronicle highlighting Jennings’ bias.

HonestReporting members are encouraged to file complaints with ABC World News Tonight. Stick with the facts, and beware that Jennings arrogantly brushes off criticism, as he did in this appearance on the Larry King Show:

KING: “How do you react, by the way, before taking the next call, to some of the controversy that surround you? And I know Brent Bozell, a columnist, has criticized you as being kind of pro-Arab, and I’ve heard this for years.”

JENNINGS: “Well, I think it’s a bit silly.”

* * *

World News Tonight online comments page:

Paul Slavin, World News Tonight Producer
Phone: 212-456-4040

Chuck Lustig, World News Tonight Foreign Desk
Phone: 212-456-2800

FAX: 212-456-4292

MAIL: ABC News, 77 West 66th Street, New York NY 10023

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.


On Sept. 11, 2001, Jennings coverage hit the nadir of gross pro-Palestinian bias. Regarding the video of Palestinians celebrating the World Trade Center attack, Jennings said:

“It’s an unfair comment on Islam in some respects, but it is certainly a motivating factor that the hatred of the United States, and the hatred of the United States as a patron of Israel, whether you’re from Afghanistan, or whether you’re from Iran, Iraq, or inside the Palestinian territories is so intense at some levels, and has become more intense in recent months, that nobody will be, very many people will not be surprised at this attack today though like everybody else will be amazed at the magnitude and success of it.”

In response, television critic Tom Shales wrote in the Washington Post (Sept. 17, 2001):

“[Jennings] hosted what looked like a little intercontinental tea party for alleged experts on the Middle East, one of whom was professional Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi, whom Jennings hailed as ‘widely known in the United States.’ Also widely disliked. Jennings and Ashrawi greeted each other like old pals, with broad smiles and warm greetings.

“Jennings wanted to know, he said, how anyone could hate America so much that they would launch this kind of vicious, calamitous attack. Ashrawi blamed U.S. foreign policy (for having ‘fought Arab nationalism’) and, predictably for her, Israel. Ashrawi complained that ‘Israel is given preferential treatment, treated as a country above the law, as part of her condemnation. Jennings deferred to Ashrawi, as usual, and let her filibuster. It was a nauseating display…”

In a critique of the same Jennings broadcast, reports (Sept. 20, 2001):

“It’s no surprise that ABC News anchor Peter Jennings allowed Palestinian proselytizer Hanan Ashrawi to peddle propaganda on his program — she used to be his girlfriend. U.S. News & World Report noted in 1991: ‘In the early 1970s, when he was single and head of the ABC bureau in Beirut, Jennings dated Ashrawi, who at the time was also single and a graduate student in literature at the American University in the Lebanese capital. Jennings was introduced to Ashrawi’s parents and sisters and became part of her circle of friends.

“In 1995, Denver Rocky Mountain News international editor Holger Jensen… [wrote] about staying at the Commodore Hotel in Beirut while covering events in war-torn Lebanon. Jensen recalled that Jennings stayed there as well, ‘courting a long succession of Palestinian lovelies including Hanan Ashrawi.”

Perhaps most telling of all is what the Arab media activists said. Ali Abunimah, vice-president of the Arab-American Action Network, wrote of Jennings’ Sept. 11 coverage:

“Peter Jennings on ABC News was more careful in his analysis, pointing out that while some Palestinians in the occupied territories may have felt that way, his experience in the Middle East suggests that many many more people all over the Arab world will be feeling sadness and shock, ‘because of their deep attachments to the United States.’ He said, for example that more people from the ‘deeply troubled’ Palestinian city of Ramallah live in the United States than in Ramallah itself.”

* * *

Jennings established his record of pro-Palestinian coverage early in his career. In 1972, as a reporter covering the Palestinian murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, Jennings would not refer to the murderers as “terrorists.” Instead he called them “guerrillas” and “commandos.”

Martin Peretz, publisher of The New Republic, wrote (Sept. 13, 2001):

“I first saw Jennings on ABC when, as a young TV journalist, he reported from the Munich Olympics. And I was filled with disgust that his subsequent career has only deepened. At Munich — I still remember it, 30 years later — Jennings tried to explain away the abductions and massacre of the young Israeli athletes. His theme: The Palestinians were helpless and desperate. Ipso facto, they were driven to murder. That’s life…”

In Sept. 2002, when ABC News aired a retrospective on the Olympic Massacre, Jennings unabashedly said that Israel should stop regarding the Palestinians as terrorists as a result of the Olympic Massacre of three decades ago. Jennings dismissed the continual barrage of thousands of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis, not only before, but also since the 72 Olympics.

* * *

The Media Research Center provides recent evidence of Jennings’s bias in Middle East reporting:

April 20, 2002 – ABC covered a pro-Palestinian rally in Washington, D.C., but Jennings ignored a pro-Israel rally in Washington held just six days earlier.

March 28, 2002 – Jennings on Hizbullah: “The Bush administration says Hizbullah is a terrorist organization. ‘Hizbullah was proud to resist the Israeli occupation,’ [Nasrallah] says. ‘We gave our lives. We are not terrorists,'” Jennings translated.

December 4, 2001 – When the Bush administration froze the assets of the Arab terrorist group Hamas, both NBC News and CBS News correctly labeled Hamas as a terrorist organization, but Jennings refused to do so. In the same newscast, Jennings blamed Israel for an “explosion of violence in the Middle Eas.”

See more examples of Jennings bias at:

* * *

We conclude with the revealing words of the pro-Palestinian activist group, American Muslims for Jerusalem (June 12, 2001):

“American Muslims and other people of conscience are requested to contact Peter Jennings at World News Tonight and thank him for his honest and fair coverage of events in the Middle East. Peter Jennings has recently come under attack for his ‘anti-Israel’ bias in his news stories on the recent violence in the Middle East. Critics accuse Jennings of excusing Palestinian violence by reporting on the number of Israelis, as well as the number of Palestinians, killed…

class=ArticleText>”In addition, critics are outraged that Jennings covered the Netanya bombing and the Israeli F-16 fighter attack with the ‘suggestion of the precise moral equivalence between the actions. Fortunately, Jennings reports on the suffering and loss of both sides, and refuses to give Israeli lives more value than Palestinian lives, as the critics demand. ‘Honest, even-handed coverage of the Palestinians is difficult to find in American media,’ said American Muslims for Jerusalem executive director Khalid Turaani, ‘And it is important to affirm unbiased journalism when we see it.’

“Action Requested: Contact Peter Jennings at World News Tonight and thank him for his unbiased reporting… Jennings’ coverage of the tragedies of both parties, particularly the Palestinians, who so often receive inadequate media attention, contributes to a more accurate understanding by Americans of the conflict in the Middle East. Encourage Jennings to continue his fair coverage, regardless of pressure from biased organizations.”



Comments are closed.